Whether you’re a practitioner or a parent, everyone has heard of and knows about Bowlby’s theory of attachment. But what does attachment really mean in a modern society? How do we as practitioners interpret and implement attachment theory in our practice? What is the impact on the children? What does this mean for parents? And how does attachment and the ‘Keyperson Approach’ differ within a Home-Based Childcare setting?
At Pebbles Childcare, the relationships we develop with the children and their families are of upmost importance to us, as a home-based setting we are keen to create and instil a ‘home from home’ and a sense of family for all of the children. We believe this deep, trusting and secure relationships enable children to grow and develop at a significant rate, due to their comfort and confidence within the setting and the relationships they establish with us as care-givers. We aim to provide our children with a secure and long-lasting attachment through which they can explore, take risks and learn in their own time.
The ‘Key Person Approach’ was first introduced by Elinor Goldschmied to attempt to provide children with a special person with whom they can relate to. A practitioner is allocated a small group of children; of whom they are responsible for paying particular attention to their emotional and physical needs and well-being. Elfer, Goldschmied and Selleck (2003) discuss the approach in depth in their book “Key Persons in the Nursery” and describe the approach as ensuring that every child has one or two people within the setting of whom the child can connect with. Whilst not taking on the role of their parents, but can take over and continue with what parents would ordinarily do for the child; being present and available whilst helping them manage their day and thinking about them and their needs. This type of secure relationship will help a child make a strong connection between home-life and the setting.
As a home-based childcare setting, we are lucky enough to have smaller/lower ratios than nursery and pre-school settings. These ratios are fundamental in providing us with the opportunity to connect and develop the deep and secure relationships that we pride ourselves on. The strength of these relationships enable us as practitioners and caregivers to gain a deeper understanding of the child; their likes, dislikes, learning styles and significant knowledge of their character and personality. The depth of the relationships we develop within a home-based childcare setting are difficult to replicate fully within a larger and busier nursery environment; but as practitioners it is essential that the key person approach is taking seriously and each practitioner makes a conscious effort to establish a significant bond with each of their key children.
Establishing these bonds within a home-based setting, is not only beneficial for the children, but for the child’s parents too. We believe that parents are entrusting us with the most precious things in their lives and so it is our duty to provide the highest, most consistent level of care we can in the absence of the child’s parents; continuing to provide the style of care the child’s parents provide at home alongside exciting learning and development experiences. This type of consistency not only allows the child to thrive but subsequently provides the parents with peace of mind. Providing care on this personal, family-orientated level is just one of the many reasons more and more parents are choosing home-based childcare. We spoke to one of our parents, Zoe O’Shea who had this to say about the attachments she has witnessed her sons develop during their time in home-based childcare:
“I have been able to see the attachment grow over time between my children and Bridgit and Chloe. Nearly 2 years in I sense a strong attachment evidenced by an understanding of my child’s personality and how he works, making me immensely proud and so happy that I chose home-based childcare, and in particular, these care-givers. They have an instinct and pick up on both of their nuances and support them the way I would in terms of their emotions and how they go about their day. I have noticed that all of the children in the setting have such strong bonds with Bridgit and Chloe in really different ways; they all have their own nicknames and their quirks are celebrated and encouraged, likes and dislikes are catered for and supported. Their special achievements and dates are celebrated and I notice constant validation of the children in the environment; their self-esteem is boosted at every opportunity by a variety of different means which in my opinion, helps to grow the attachments. My children care deeply for their childminders; speaking about them as they would members of their own family and look forward to their sessions immensely. There is no trepidation or anxiety now the bonds have been established, and this is all you can wish for as a parent.”
As practitioners, establishing these bonds and knowledge of the children in our care enables us to provide and adapt learning environments and experiences for children for each child based upon their own needs, learning styles and age and stage of development. In a home-based setting like ours where we provide care for children of varying ages at any one time, finding activities and experiences to suit each child can be challenging, but we are confident in the knowledge we possess of our children and as a result are able to meet each child’s needs and learning styles with ease; making each experience engaging and stimulating for each child involved. Similarly, establishing strong and trusting bonds with the parents and families of our children also enables us to develop a relationship that allows the parents to feel comfortable enough with us to come and have a cup of tea with us when they need someone to talk to, as well as seeking advice on matters such as potty training and disciplining their child.
We hold the relationships we have developed with our children and families in the highest regard and everything we do as a setting is centred around and for the children and providing them with the highest quality of personal and individual care, whilst ensuring they get the best possible opportunities and experiences in their earliest years in order to thrive and develop in later life. The foundations we lay in terms of their earliest attachments and experiences will go on to shape their future.